|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
||1364: St Ignatius of Antioch, New York City, New York
Mystery Worshipper: Fishngrl.
The church: St Ignatius of Antioch, New York City, New York.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Dating from 1902, this is a relatively small-scale
Gothic building of stone and asphalt, designed by Charles Coolidge Haight,
who also designed the lovely little chapel of St Cornelius on Governor's
Island in New York Harbor, the General Theological Seminary, and several
other buildings that, alas, no longer stand. Much of the decoration of the
interior is attributed to Ralph Adams Cram, known in his day as the high
priest of American neo-Gothic – this makes sense, as the interior
looks exactly as one would expect a Gothic interior to be. One's attention
is drawn to the marble altar and ornate baptistery as well as to some marvelous
statues of the Blessed Virgin, St Ignatius, St Michael, and assorted angels.
There is also some lovely stained glass, including a window depicting St
Ignatius being tormented by lions (which, the rector is known to have remarked,
look more like overgrown pussycats than ferocious beasts). By daylight,
with the lights turned off, the church can seem a bit austere even though
the stained glass windows are dazzling by sunlight. But the service I attended
was held at night, and it seemed as though the artificial lighting brought
out all the beauty and simplicity of the medieval atmosphere. The effect
was most striking and seemed just right.
The church: St Ignatius parish was founded in 1871 by a group devoted
to the concept of the catholicity of the Church, the centrality of the historic
episcopate, and the Anglo-Catholic movement. The congregation worshipped
in a variety of temporary locations at first, but eventually felt the need
for a place of their own. The Bishop of New York at the time, Bishop Potter,
expressed his disapproval of Catholic ritual by absenting himself from the
present building's formal opening, allowing instead the Bishop of Fond du
Lac, Wisconsin, to preside. Over the years St Ignatius has established itself
as a bastion of fine Anglo-Catholic worship and outstanding music. They
are also known for their work among the homeless and the needy, sponsoring
a soup kitchen, a shelter for men recovering from addiction, a home visitation
program for the sick, a home energy assistance program, and other such ministries.
The neighborhood: This is Manhattan's Upper West Side, an area of
stately old apartment buildings and townhouses, elegant shops co-existing
with 99-cent bargain stores, and trendy restaurants alongside fast food
joints – in short, not as grand as those areas near Central Park,
although hardly poor. I'm always fascinated by how much New York reminds
me of the Middle Ages. I noticed a number of homeless people out on the
sidewalk. St Ignatius is one of several Manhattan churches that allow people
to set up camp for the night on the porch steps, where the police cannot
roust them. The service ended at a rather late hour, and the steps were
filling up well. This, and the medieval atmosphere within, reminded me of
the function large cathedrals served in the olden days, as shelter to the
unfortunate. It was a bit disconcerting, and I was grateful to have a friend
escort me to the bus stop (but I felt the usual middle-class guilt about
The cast: Mass was celebrated in the presence of the Rt Rev. Catherine
S. Roskam, Bishop Suffragan of New York, with the Rev. Roger M.C. Gentile,
associate clergy, serving as chaplain to the bishop. The Rev. H. Gaylord
Hitchcock, Jr., rector, was the celebrant. The Rev. Alan L. Chisolm, director
of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute at St Bartholomew's Church,
was the preacher. There were also a deacon and subdeacon, thurifer and boat
bearer, a multitude of acolytes, several torchbearers, two crucifers, two
vergers (with wands), etc., etc. I counted 25 people in the procession.
The date & time: The Feast of St Michael and All Angels, September
29, 2006, 7.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Mass, followed by a farewell reception for Father Hitchcock, who
was retiring after serving 10 years as rector of St Ignatius.
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full. I guess there were about 175 people altogether, including clergy and altar servers.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. An usher greeted me quietly, handed me a hymnal and service leaflet,
and, upon request, directed me to the ladies' room. Which deserves a special
mention – they must store the incense in here, because it's the nicest-smelling
bathroom I've ever been in. We let Bishop Roskam cut in line in front of
us, so maybe that's why it smelled so good!
Was your pew comfortable?
It was an unpadded wooden pew, with a board in back that left part of the
back open. Comfortable enough for a short person, but I would think that
it would be hard going (pun intended) for someone any taller. There was
a separate padded faux leather hassock-type kneeler. The comfort of the
pew proved to be immaterial, though, as much of our time was spent either
standing or kneeling.
How would you describe the pre-service
Reverent and quiet. People did straggle in well after the service started, but I attribute this to the fact that there were traffic snafus that evening in Manhattan.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Let us go forth in peace," chanted at the procession, before
the station at the rood.
What books did the congregation use during the
1940 Hymnal and a booklet containing the complete text of the mass.
I believe that may have been taken from Rite I in the 1979 Prayer Book.
What musical instruments were played?
A fine pipe organ (according to the parish website, a 1966 Casavant Frères).
The choir was marvelous and sang motets by Marcel Dupré and Roland de Lassus.
Did anything distract you?
The soliloquy inside my head. I spent a good part of the service wondering
what the altar party was doing. I am familiar with Anglo-Catholic worship,
and my own parish is rather on the spiky side itself, but this was Rite
I as never before experienced! My thoughts tended to be along the lines
of: "So that's a humeral veil, and that other thing must be a maniple."
and "Who are those guys and what are they doing? It looks like a chorus
line up there!" There was a certain amount of whispering and moving
around among the altar party. The deacon seemed a little unsure of himself,
and the master of ceremonies kept making subtle gestures with her head to
indicate what he should do next. At one point I thought she was about to
elbow him in the ribs! I consider all of the above a pleasant distraction,
altogether a fine lesson on liturgical tat.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
On the candle scale, while St Ignatius is no St Clement's Philadelphia,
the service was proud and spiky "smells and bells" and very Anglo-Catholic,
with the altar party processing all around the church, a station at the
rood, and lots and lots of Latin, great-smelling incense and fanciness.
I did enjoy it, and it kept me on my toes. At the peace ceremony, I found
out the meaning of the term "liturgical embrace" less touchy
than an air kiss but more familiar than a handshake.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Just about 10 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Father Chisolm, according to the service leaflet, has known Father
Hitchcock for many years, and was invited to preach on the occasion of Father
Hitchcock's retirement. He read a concise sermon and presented it well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Father spoke on how we need to find God in our anger and intense feelings,
and how we should grow into ambivalent compassion and concern, rather than
giving into anger, particularly at terrorism (this was only a few weeks
after the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon). He wished Father Hitchcock the best in this new phase
of his life, but did not dwell particularly on his service to the church.
Which part of the service was like being in
The liturgy and the atmosphere, full of smoke, reverent and serious (but
not stuffy or unfriendly) Anglo-Catholic pomp and circumstance.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a good bit of traffic noise outside, and it saddened me to think
of the homeless people who had to wait for us to leave before they could
settle down in the doorways.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was swept down to the undercroft along with the rest of the crowd, following
the smell of roast ham, for a reception to honor the rector.
How would you describe the after-service
As it was a Friday, the bishop gave us a dispensation to enjoy the ham and
other meat in honor of Michaelmas. There was also chicken salad, sushi,
bread and cheese, a variety of desserts, and punch (both alcoholic and sans
alcohol). There was quite a crowd, both of parishioners and friends of the
rector visiting from elsewhere, and everyone was very sociable. Several
gifts were presented to the rector, and he spoke (somewhat interminably,
it seemed) about his many fond memories of the parish.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I enjoyed the service very much, even thought Rite I with all its
formality is not my favorite worship style. The mass was lovely, the music
very well done, and the people were welcoming. I think that if one were
looking for a church that emphasized Rite I with humeral veils, birettas,
maniples, etc., one would be right at home at St Ignatius.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Absolutely. I enjoyed the service very much and was glad to have the opportunity
to experience a feast day there.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The medieval feel to the atmosphere and the liturgy and that aromatic bathroom.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.